KUALA LUMPUR • Three elephants were poisoned to death near a palm oil plantation in Malaysia, officials said yesterday, in the latest case of the endangered creatures being killed near human settlements.
Local police in southern Johor state found the animal carcasses and alerted wildlife officers on Tuesday, Wildlife and National Parks Department director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim told Agence France-Presse.
It is believed the dead animals were part of a herd of 30 elephants from a nearby forest reserve.
"We conducted a post-mortem on the three female elephants, aged between 18 and 22, and it revealed they were poisoned," Mr Abdul Kadir said. "I am shocked and saddened by this incident. If this trend continues, all our wild elephants will be wiped out."
Electric fences, used to keep elephants away from village crops, were not functioning and allowed the creatures to trespass on plantations, Mr Abdul Kadir said.
Liver and kidney samples from the elephants were being examined to determine the type of poison used, said Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar Arulanandam.
Malaysia has seen a spate of elephant killings as a result of human settlements or agricultural plantations expanding into the creatures' habitats.
Last year, six pygmy elephants were found poisoned in palm oil plantations in Sabah.
Conservationists estimate there are only 1,500 wild elephants left in Malaysia.
Mr Abdul Kadir said the latest incident was a criminal act of cruelty. "Culprits in this poisoning incident beware. We will hunt you," he warned.